Something wonderful happened on the weekend – the sun shone for two days running. This is a big deal of the “OMG” variety as the UK just had the wettest June on record. I wouldn’t mind so much about the constant rain if A) I wasn’t Australian, B) I wasn’t living in the UK, and C) it wasn’t “summer”. Ask anyone and they’ll blame the jet stream. Don’t worry, I hadn’t heard of it either. I won’t bore you with the details, but I’m happy to report the jet stream is getting its groove on and the big ball in the sky has now been shining for four days straight.
Wonderful things happen when the sun shines. Like on Sunday my neighbour, Livvy popped over to offer me a cup of tea. Not being one to knock back a cup of tea made by a Brit (they make great tea), I said, “Oh yes please, that sounds great.” Next thing I know, a group of friends and a couple of Whippets were sprawled out on picnic rugs on Livvy’s front lawn sipping tea, eating cake and enjoying an impromptu tea party. Naturally, I jumped on the opportunity to serve up all the baked goods that were lying around my kitchen, including the delectable gluten-free ginger nuts, leftover gluten-free citrus cheesecake from Saturday night’s dinner party (stay tuned for the recipe) and the spelt zucchini and chocolate loaf that it the subject of today’s blog post.
Baking a cake with zucchini is probably one of those things that polarises people in a love/hate kind of way. But if you’re anything like me, you’ll be doing backflips over it. In fact, all this zucchini grating has got me thinking about all the other things I can bake with vegetables, like red velvet beetroot cake, zucchini brownies and potato chocolate cake. But before you get too excited, this recipe is not gluten-free. It contains an ancient grain called spelt which is good for people who are sensitive to wheat. I’m sure the loaf would work just as nicely with a gluten-free flour mix like the one I’m going to try with the box of rice, tapioca and potato flour that just arrived on my front doorstep!
I wrestled over the name of this recipe as zucchini is known as ‘courgette’ in the UK. Zucchini isn’t the only vegetable suffering from an identity crisis of sorts. Take butternut squash, for example. They say “butternut squash”, I say “pumpkin”. They say “mangetout”, I say “snow peas”. They say “aubergine”, I say “eggplant”. And don’t even get me started on the whole pronunciation caper. I decided to stay true to my Aussie roots for this recipe and include zucchini in the title.
I’ve now made this loaf twice – the first time using walnuts instead of chocolate. On the second attempt, I didn’t have any walnuts in the pantry, so I used chocolate instead. Both worked beautifully. Maybe next time I’ll try using walnuts and chocolate. Mmmmm. The grated zucchini creates a lovely moist texture while the chocolate adds a nice sweetness and crunch. I find the loaf is best toasted and smeared with butter.
Spelt zucchini and chocolate loaf
Adapted from Channel 4
1 zucchini (around 1 cup grated)
75g butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
2 tbs runny honey
75g (1/2 cup) caster sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
2 free-range eggs (at room temperature)
juice of 1/2 small lemon (plus 1 lemon rind)
200g (1 1/2 cups) spelt flour
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp gluten-free baking powder
50g (1/2 cup) good-quality dark chocolate, roughly chopped
2 tbs natural/plain yoghurt
75g (1/2 cup) raisins
1. Preheat the oven to 160°C (fan forced) and place an oven rack in the centre of the oven. Grease and line the base of a loaf tin.
2. Grate the zucchini, put it in a sieve and leave for about 15 minutes to drain. Squeeze out any excess moisture with a tea towel and set aside.
3. Beat the butter, honey, sugar, vanilla and eggs with an electric mixer until smooth. Fold in the lemon juice and yoghurt with a wooden spoon (it will curdle, but that’s okay).
4. Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder, cinnamon and xantham gum into a large bowl. Add the zucchini, raisins and chocolate and mix thoroughly.
5. Fold the butter mixture into the flour mixture and stir until just combined.
6. Pour evenly into the loaf tin and smooth the top with a spatula. Bake for approximately 70 minutes, or until golden. Insert a skewer – if it comes out clean, it’s done; if not, cook for a further 5 mins. Cool in the tin.
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